These are some of my paintings from college in no particular order.
When I feel I’ve been driven into the ground and everything has been taken away, when I see others around me have everything I’ve ever wanted, I am painfully confronted with the truth of my deepest desires. Jesus is only enough until He’s all I have.
I wallow and wonder why God would even require such painful sacrifice. It’s funny that I’m always surprised at these times since Jesus said that following Him would require me to take up my cross. What do I do when I simply feel I can’t go on? What do I do when it simply feels too hard? How do I let go of something that I feel has become a part of me?
Hebrews says that our High Priest sympathizes with our weaknesses. That’s a truth I can hold on to. All I can do is grab on to the little bit of the Gospel I can still see, and wait for God. I hold on to the mercy and grace of God until it grows. It grows until it is no longer clouded over by life. It grows until by it I can see everything, and it grows until it is all I care to see. It grows until it is my entire life once again. Then I remember that I was never holding on to the grace and mercy of God, but God was holding on to me in His grace and mercy. God’s grace doesn’t only save me from the consequences of sin and selfishness, but God’s grace saves me from sin and selfishness themselves.
God always gently reminds me of why I sold all I had to buy the field. I easily forget about the incredible and unending treasure I found there in the first place.
Jesus, the Lord, My Savior by William Gadsby
Jesus, the Lord, my Savior is,
My Shepherd, and my God;
My light, my strength, my joy, my bliss;
And I His grace record.
Whate’er I need in Jesus dwells,
And there it dwells for me;
’Tis Christ my earthen vessel fills
With treasures rich and free.
Chorus: Mercy and truth and righteousness,
And peace, most richly meet
In Jesus Christ, the King of grace,
In Whom I stand complete.
As through the wilderness I roam,
His mercies I’ll proclaim;
And when I safely reach my home,
I’ll still adore His name.
“Worthy the Lamb,” shall be my song,
“For He for me was slain;”
And me with all the heavenly throng
Shall join, and say, “Amen.”
I recently finished reading The Practice of Godliness by Jerry Bridges. The book first defines godliness and then runs through biblical traits of godly character and defines them from a biblical perspective.
I’m not meaning for this post to be a book review, but this book did help me to refocus my mind. What is at the core of Christian living? Is it evangelism? Is it love? Is it theology? Is it morality? All of these things definitely are a part of Christian living, but they are not central to the Christian life.
At the heart of the Christian life is Jesus. This sounds simple, and it’s the answer every Christian would give, but I’m not sure if it’s truly what they believe or live. This book challenged me to once again commit to living selflessly with my motivation for doing so rooted in the grace I find in Christ.
We should first focus our eyes on Jesus. This reminds us of our sin and what we deserve and the grace God has had on us. We find joy and motivation in the love and grace of God. This then should motivate us to turn from constantly taking for ourselves to constantly seeking ways to give of ourselves. This self-sacrifice or giving of ourselves is called love, and this love should be completely fixed on God. Some people get this confused and think that if they love God, He will and should give them what they want. The problem with that thinking is that the love is focused on self, not God. It is impossible to say you love God if you view Him as merely the means to an end. God is both the means and the end. He is the reason we are in pursuit, and He is the one of whom we are in pursuit. God is the one who graciously gives us the desire and strength to pursue Him.
And how do we love God? We love God by self-sacrifice. Remember, love is self-sacrifice. We sacrificially live a life of purity and self-discipline in our mind and thoughts. We live in obedience to Him. When we live in obedience to God, our relationships are affected. Loving God is not a cold-hearted, law abiding morality. A major area of obedience is in our love for others.
I don’t like what the phrase, “Allow God to work through you” has become because I feel it causes people to think of this as a mystical experience. I know the intentions behind the phrase are good because the wording gives God credit for our good deeds. With that, I agree. However, we shouldn’t wait to be empowered to do acts of love for others, we already are empowered. Allowing God to work through us is an action we must take. I view our actions of loving others in two categories: passive and active. Passive is when someone provokes us. Someone causes us to feel impatient and causes us to feel bitter or tempts us to retaliate in some way. When we think of the grace we have received because of Christ, then we can have grace on the people around us. Active love is when we are actively looking for ways to meet the needs of those around us, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the motivation that should color every interaction we have with people. We should have an attitude of grace and service.
Too many times I have had interactions with others where I am only seeking to gain something for myself. This only shows a lack of trust in God’s provision. I am not saying we should not receive anything from others at all. There would be no point in giving of myself if I thought people were not allowed to receive any kind of loving action or gift. What I believe is that our focus should be on the benefit of others, and we should trust God to bring people into our lives who will also be servants and benefit us. We cannot force another person to love us, and we should not manipulate someone to love us. Only God can cause a person to selflessly love another person.
I’m going to post more on this topic soon, but I’m going to end this post with a quote from page 201 in The Practice of Godliness:
“But true goodness does not look to the recipients, nor even to the results, of its deeds for its reward. It looks to God alone, and, finding His smile of approval, it gains the needed strength to carry on.”
Over the past week, my decision to move to North Carolina has sunken in. I don’t feel like I’ve had time to think about what’s happened until now. Everything was so new and different.
I don’t adjust to change or new situations very well. I feel stressed and confused, and I don’t know where I’m supposed to go. Because I’m naturally and overly introspective, I have a tendency to become anxious, lonely and depressed at times like this. Normally, when I’ve experienced any kind of suffering, I’ve either run away to a more comfortable place, or I’ve done something rash to fix everything. I know I’m not old, but I am getting close to my mid-twenties, and I am old enough to know that neither of these approaches works. Things become messy, I end up regretting my decisions, my feelings are hurt, someone else’s feeling are hurt. Then I feel like a failure or I’m afraid and confused. I shift the blame to God and ignore that He has called me to be patient and wait on Him and trust that He knows what He’s doing.
I don’t know why I feel like I should find peace and security in something other than God. It’s like I think sin will make me feel strong, but it never has. I only feel defeated and weaker, and by sin I’m not necessarily talking about specific acts; I’m talking about an attitude of impatience. Selfishly trying to turn earth into heaven for myself when God obviously does not want me to be in heaven at this time. It’s an attitude of focussing on my own comfort instead of sacrificial living.
I keep praying for comfort, but God keeps sanctifying me. I read Romans 4 and 5 today, and a couple verses that stuck out to me were Rom. 5:3-5 which read, “… we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance and endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
God declared me righteous through Christ. When afflictions come, God molds my character. When my character is a little more Christ-like, I know I belong to Christ and have hope, or assurance, of my faith in Christ and of my inheritance. Just like Abraham was declared righteous and then was circumsized as a sign of his righteousness, we are declared righteous and receive sanctification as a sign of our righteousness.
And back to the loneliness, anxiety, and depression: I could turn to anything to cure myself. Food, anything sexual, relationships that aren’t particularly healthy, I could even turn to a false idea of God. Basically, I could impatiently turn to sin as an attempt to cure my discomfort.
David had been promised the kingship over Israel, and he had two opportunities to kill Saul, but was patient and trusted God to follow through on His promise. God has promised to finish His work in me, and to provide me with everything I need. By faith, I know that I have everything I need right now, and I know I need to be patient.
My strength and joy should come from nothing more in quantity or less in quality than the Gospel. Friendships will come in time, and God will provide. I’m going to (try to) be patient this time.
The past couple of weeks have been really busy. I moved up to North Carolina from Florida on Monday. For the two weeks before I left, I was spending so much time with friends and family, that I haven’t had much time to think about what this move means for me and my life. I don’t think it’s sunken in yet that I’m actually living here instead of visiting.
On Sunday, I had a family lunch with my parents, brother, and sister-in-law. I shot some video while we were out on the back patio of us playing with frogs. It sounds weird, but these little baby frogs have been everywhere in the yard. I felt guilty the week before because I must have killed a hundred of them with my lawn mower.
When we sleep (particularly during REM sleep), our brains temporarily paralyze us by releasing acetylcholine. This is referred to as “atony”. The purpose of this is to keep us from acting out our dreams.
Sometimes, a person can become conscious while in this state and he will wake up feeling paralyzed. This is referred to as Awareness during Sleep Paralysis (ASP) or simply sleep paralysis. Because it can be accompanied by feelings of suffocation or being strangled and in the past was thought to be brought about by an old hag (or witch, ghost, demon, etc.), it became known as the Old Hag Syndrome or Old Hag Phenomenon. When a person is experiencing this, he will essentially be dreaming while he is conscious with open eyes.
If you go here, you can read about different experiences people have with sleep paralysis under “hallucinations”. Some of the symptoms experiencers may have include hearing strange sounds, laugher, voices, or footsteps. Sometimes they will feel the presence of something malevolent standing over them (the figure is sometimes described as looking, watching, or even staring), or they will actually see a shadowy figure standing over them. On rare occasions, a person will feel as if a family member or friend is in the room with them. People also experience feelings of levitation, or falling, or even sinking into their pillows or mattresses. Some believe this explains modern day accounts of alien abduction.
The reason I’m writing about this is because this is something I’ve experienced regularly since I was in the fourth grade, and it’s very interesting to me. My experiences are usually not as extreme as many accounts I’ve read or heard, but it’s annoying nonetheless. Usually I wake up paralyzed with what sounds like white noise buzzing in my ears, or I can tell I’m slipping into sleep paralysis when I’m trying to go to sleep because I feel my head sinking into my pillow or I hear white noise. There have been rare occasions where I’ve felt (or even seen) someone or something watching me, but as I’ve learned more about this, my experiences have become more of an annoyance than something to be feared.